’Law support’ for immigrants in Barcelona: the work of the City Department for Civil Rights.

Presented at the conference The Local Relevance of Human Rights, Antwerp, October 16-18, 2008.

The paper analyses the work of the Office for Non Discrimination (OND) and the Inter-religious Centre of Barcelona (ICB) with respect to immigrants’ rights. Both these agencies are public and located within the City Department for Civil Rights. They work primarily on race, religious and ethnic origin discrimination. The OND processes complaints of discrimination, while the ICB mediates between the religious communities of the city and the local administration. The paper investigates the degree to which these bodies contribute to protect immigrants’ rights according to EU and national legislation but also the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City approved by the city council in 2000. Issues of dignity, family reunion, public accommodation, right to information, social benefits and employment and housing discrimination are dealt with in the paper, as much as public religious ceremonies, worship sites and participation. The analysis shows that while on certain issues the OND and the ICB can help to implement human rights through their networks with the competent state authorities and municipal services, they meet with problems when legal tools would be needed to tackle most hidden and hard-to-prove forms of discrimination. Issues of social rights are also particularly problematic. Especially in the case of religious communities, issues of human rights and participation get intertwined with the emerging security agenda of the local government.